Felony charges for man accused of stealing tourism brochures

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(MIDWAY, Utah, AP) โ€” A Utah man who once ran for Congress in Missouri may have committed commercial terrorism when he repeatedly stole and disposed of a rival tourism business’s brochures, authorities say.

Scott Jay Eckersley pleaded not guilty to multiple felony charges after Wasatch County sheriff’s deputies arrested him Sunday.
Eckersley, 38, went to the Zermatt Resort & Spa in Midway four times in the past year, disposed of a competitor’s free brochures in the lobby and replaced them with his own, Lt. Jeff Winterton told the Deseret News newspaper in Salt Lake City (http://bit.ly/1QMZ9Kx). Surveillance video led investigators to Eckersley, Winterton said.
Utah’s commercial terrorism law was passed in 2001 and aimed at keeping animal rights protesters out of businesses like furriers and meat shops. The original version, which banned any protest sounds or light from reaching businesses, was struck down by a federal judge. The state Legislature passed a revised version of the law the following year.
It’s a seldom-used law, former prosecutor Greg Skordas told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The brochure case doesn’t appear to fit lawmakers’ intent, but prosecutors may have landed on the statute after finding that a felony theft charge wouldn’t stick because the fliers were free.
“They had to find a crime that has some teeth,” he said.
Winterton said the owner of the brochure rack business reported the crime as a theft, but prosecutors chose to use the commercial terrorism statute.
Deputy Wasatch County Attorney Mckay G. King told The Associated Press in an email that the “for the privacy of all individuals concerned I do not want to comment on the evidence beyond that information filed with the court.
“At the time of arrest there was a probable cause statement filed that supports the charges filed, and my review of that document, police reports, videos, and a lengthy discussion with the officer led me to believe that the charges I have filed are appropriate,” King said.
Eckersley has been charged with four counts of felony commercial terrorism as well as felony possession of a controlled substance, according to the charging documents. Winterton wouldn’t say what the controlled substance was but said it was found when Eckersley was booked in jail.
Eckersley’s business and the rival company haven’t been named, but Eckersley is listed as the registered agent for Park City Local LLC, which was established in September, according to state records. He also is listed as the registered agent for an immigration law firm.
Winterton said there’s doubt that Eckersley’s company truly exists.
Eckersley’s defense lawyer, Jarom Bangerter, did not reply to an email and phone calls seeking comment.
The Deseret News reported visiting an address listed for Eckersley where a woman answered the door and declined to comment.
The general manager of the Zermatt Resort also did not return messages seeking comment.
Eckersley previously served as a staff attorney in the governor’s office in Missouri before he was fired in a high-profile spat that sparked a wrongful termination lawsuit settled in 2009.
He ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat the following year.
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Information from: Deseret News, http://www.deseretnews.com